Today’s liturgy begins with the silent entrance of the celebrant and his assistant. For a short time, they pray, prostrate on the floor – yet another memory of praying at time of special solemnity,now only practised on occasions such as ordination. The celebration has four main parts. The Liturgy of the Wordputs before us in three readings and a psalm the meaning of the Cross.

The second part of the liturgy is the long series of intercessions. These are probably in the original style in which what we today know as ‘the Prayer of the Faithful’ was celebrated in the Roman Liturgy.
The third part of the Liturgy is the Solemn Veneration of the Cross. This may be done in several ways. Ideally, the Cross veiled in red, is carried through the congregation. At three stops or stations, part of the Cross is unveiled and the faithful are invited to venerate it. The congregation then comes in procession to venerate the wood of the Cross by kissing or touching it, making three genuflections if possible, as they come to the Cross.

The final part of the liturgy is a brief communion service. After the Lord’s Prayer, communion is distributed from the hosts consecrated at the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The body is very important in today’s liturgy. We do things today we do not do at other times. The celebrant will lie on the ground as a sign of our earnest prayer. We will come in procession to the cross; we will genuflect, bend low and kiss it. We will come in another procession to receive Holy Communion.

As we pray the long Good Friday prayers, we will stand and kneel alternately using our body in our prayer. The body is the key to the story of our salvation. Crucifixion stretched human limbs to breaking point. It exposed the crucified to the heat of the sun, to insects crawling over his face, which he could not drive away because his hands were nailed to the wood. Eventually, the broken tortured body would be taken down and thrown into a common burial pit. Yet the climax of our Passion story is that this body is restored to glory, still bearing its wounds as marks of triumph.